ExtraVaaKhanga brings African-inspired fashion to downtown Minneapolis


This weekend downtown Minneapolis will welcome an international showcase of multicolored design when it hosts the 2009 ExtraVaaKhanga fashion show, a three-day celebration of African influence on international fashion. The headlining event is a multi-designer runway show on Friday at 8:00 p.m. at the Graves 601 Hotel. The show gets its name from the colorful khanga, a patterned garment traditionally worn in East and Central Africa, which has been recently adopted by contemporary African designers.

This year’s ExtraVaaKhanga show will feature several up-and-coming designers based in Africa and the Midwest, including Minneapolis resident Nyamal Both. Both, 21, is self-taught creator of BothDol Fashion, a label she launched in 2007. With no formal training, but plenty of practical experience, Both is already gathering a reputation within the Twin Cities fashion industry with her African-inspired designs. Her style marries American and African influences, mixing opposite textiles and patterns, such as a short china-doll dress sewn in an African print.

Both, who moved to Minnesota from her native Ethiopia at age six, said the influence of fashion on African culture is changing, with more Africans stepping out of their comfort zones to embrace new styles. Both was pleased when an older African woman recently bought one of her baby-doll style dresses popular among her younger clients. “I’d like to see more African elders look at fashion in a positive way,” she says, “and realize that fashion is another way to embrace beauty and culture.”

Both has been making her own clothes since middle school, when her family couldn’t afford to buy new school clothes. Today she sees her success story as an inspiration to her peers. “I became a role model to a lot of young people who knew what my life was like,” she says, “and who have seen that I have came a long way without giving up.” Both plans to expand the Bothdol label even further next year and hopes to one day use her brand to support charity work in Africa and America.

The show also features designs by Lalesso, a label run by a duo of women from South Africa and Kenya, who manufacture their garments in Kenya according to strict ethical guidelines. Garments by Modahnik Fashions will debut at the show. Founder Kahindo Mateene is originally from the Republic of Congo and now lives and works in Chicago.

The three-day lineup also includes a coffee hour, a BBQ dinner, and a riverboat ride to allow fashion enthusiasts to mingle with the designers.

Jamie Thomas (jethomas319@gmail.com) is a freelance journalist living in South Minneapolis.

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